IRS deal eases load

Electronic software delivery is a hit at the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS this month renewed a contract with IntelliSys Technology Corp. to have Microsoft Corp. software electronically distributed to 130,000 desktops. This year the IRS plans to upgrade its PCs to Microsoft's Windows 2000. The contract, in its second year, could be worth $120 million over five and a half years.

And based on the IRS success, three other Treasury Department bureaus have signed deals with ITC, receiving the same delivery options and volume pricing. That means a bureau with 1,300 desktops is getting the same discount price as the IRS with its high-volume requirements.

ITC has teamed on those contracts with Beyond.com, whose Electronic Download Manager technology makes it possible to distribute, manage and support software products across an intranet. The agreement covers licenses for Microsoft's Windows 1998 and 2000, Office Professional, Client Access Licenses and BackOffice software such as SQL Server, Exchange, Proxy Server and IIS.

"We're using [Beyond.com] in a pretty effective way," said Dan McLaughlin, branch chief of department systems at the IRS. "It is cost-efficient. Our resources aren't devoted to making copies of CDs and distributing them. Instead, we are getting the product to the desktop as fast as possible."

Some agencies download the software directly from Beyond.com (www.beyond.com), but for security reasons, the IRS takes the technology in-house, behind the firewall, and distributes it internally, said Steve Cooker, Beyond.com's vice president of government sales.

Either way, electronic delivery is much less expensive for agencies than having systems administrators load software on desktops individually. The savings dramatically add up in agencies such as the IRS, which has many offices nationwide.

Beyond.com's Electronic Download Manager technology already is in use at federal agencies including the Comptroller of the Currency, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Patent and Trademark Office, the Defense Logistics Agency and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And electronic delivery may be the wave of the future as the government moves into the Digital Age.

"This one of the hottest things in the commercial world. We fully expect it to catch on in government — federal, state and local," said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president with the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division. ITAA, which represents IT products and services companies, has a new membership program to promote the idea, she said.

But Alan Bechara, vice president of the public sector for Comark Federal Systems, a government reseller, said that while the theory behind the software product is good, there will be "tremendous growing pains" in the private and public sectors before new technology is fully integrated into the government.

"We still live in the world where we all print our e-mail to have a hard copy," Bechara said. "Will getting software from the Net prevent someone from wanting to get their software from a CD?"

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